Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog
Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: May 2007

Friday, May 25, 2007

Justice via Natural Selection

How often do we see our court system fall short of delivering justice? Fortunately, the process of natural selection sometimes helps us thin the herds from undesirable individuals who like to kill, steal, and defraud his fellow man.

From The Boston Herald:
NEW YORK - A thief fleeing a jewelry store was killed when his bicycle was struck by a bus, police said.

Authorities said the 42-year-old man snatched a $2,000 gold chain from the Bronx jewelry store on Friday and was making his getaway. A store clerk and two bystanders were chasing the man on foot when he pedaled into an intersection and was hit by a fast-moving bus, police said.

The suspect was taken to a hospital, where he died from head injuries. Five passengers who were jostled when the bus slammed on its brakes were also examined at the hospital.

"He lost his life for $2,000," said the store’s owner, Lakhwinder Singh. "He’d sell it for maybe only two or three hundred. That makes no sense."

The necklace was still missing, and may have been thrown from the scene or grabbed by a bystander after the accident.

I don’t know about you but this story brought a big smile to my face. This man’s inability to evolve into a person with marketable and desirable skills cost him. On the bright side, he may well have earned a nomination for The Darwin Awards.
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Thursday, May 17, 2007

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

I originally had no intention of writing anything about the death of Jerry Falwell because I did not think I would have anything nice to say during this time when his family and friends are grieving (I have since thought of a few nice things which I’ll get to later). So why did I change my mind? I am frankly embarrassed and disturbed with how many atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers have cheerfully responded to this news. Atheist bloggers as well as more high profile atheists like Christopher Hitchens (who I usually respect) have gone over the deep end with some of their reactions.

I am an atheist and I make no apologies for holding beliefs in opposition to Rev. Falwell but I do not believe it appropriate to dance on his grave (he hasn’t even been buried yet) even though I was clearly in first category of the Falwell axis of evil (atheists, homosexuals, and pornographers). Indeed, Falwell did much damage to this country. He turned the Republican Party away from the Barry Goldwater philosophy of limited government, fiscal responsibility, liberty, and rugged individualism to a party that has more theocratic aims. The Republican Party hardly resembles the movement Goldwater worked so hard to build.

Unlike many of his fellow travelers, however; Falwell walked the walk, talked the talk, and put his money where his mouth is. While many in the Pro-Life movement talked about ending the practice of abortion but seemed to have no concern for young women in desperate situations, Falwell offered room, board, and scholarships to his Christian university to women who decided to keep their babies. Regardless of how one feels about the abortion issue, I can’t help but find this to be an admirable act on the part of Jerry Falwell.

It’s already been over a month since the tragedy at Virginia Tech. In the wake of the tragedy, some Christian bloggers and pundits blamed the “secularization” of our culture and atheism. Others asked “where were the atheists” in the wake of the tragedy. I have seen some of the most disgusting comments by people who call themselves Christians directed at an atheist blogger who is a mother who is dying of cancer. Neal Boortz (who is not an atheist) writes of similar experiences in his radio career about fundamentalist Christians writing the most vicious e-mails because of differences of opinions that many in the Christian Right hold that he does not. Bill O’reilly wrote an entire book about how “secular progressives” have destroyed our culture and in so many words said that atheists are immoral.

I found all these things to be offensive and wrong. A recent poll found that the majority of Americans would vote for a woman, an African American, a Mormon, and even a homosexual for president. The only kind of person most Americans said they would not support was an atheist. Clearly we have a perception problem here. When people who represent a certain point of view behave in such a disgusting way as how some atheists have responded to the death of Jerry Falwell, we play directly into their hands and make their point for them.

We cannot expect these people to be fair and say that these people do not represent all atheists. I fully expect those who already believe atheism to be the source of all of the ills of our culture will amplify those who have said the most outrageous things and downplay those of us who want to be more respectful. We are already such a misunderstood minority as it is; these actions are only going to make us more hated than ever before. If we do not want others to perceive us as callused, immoral, jerks then we shouldn’t act like callused, immoral, jerks. Let’s allow Jerry Falwell’s family and friends some time to grieve in peace. Isn’t that what we would expect from them if one of our icons died?
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Friday, May 11, 2007

Dare to be Fair

Americans for Fair Taxation had an open contest to Fair Tax supporters called “Dare to be Fair” to create their own YouTube videos. This video did not make the cut for the top six videos (I suspect that the video is too long) but is very well produced and does a great job of making the case for the Fair Tax and answers the critics.

The second video was my favorite of the top six. It’s more humorous video (who thought the Fair Tax could be sexy?)
Free Hit Counters
devry university

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Mysterious Ica Stones

As I promised in my correction of my previous post, Your In-box is Lying to You, I have gone back to look into the veracity of the Intelligent Design (I.D.) and creationist claims of some of the Mt. Blanco authors. I searched the Pro-Quest data base through my university program for peer reviewed articles or journal entries from these archeological “experts” to no avail (this isn’t to say none of these authors don’t have peer reviewed articles elsewhere but to say that I did not find any articles in this particular database). I did manage to find a peer-reviewed article about The Ica Stones, the subject of one of the Mt. Blanco authors, Dennis Swift. I also came across Dennis Swift’s name using a simple web search (I’ll get into that later in the post). I wasn’t so lucky with the other authors.

So what are the Ica Stones? In the description of Swift’s book, Secrets of the Ica Stones and Nazca Lines claims “amazing proof that South American men and dinosaurs lived together not 30,000,000 years apart. Scientifically proven to be authentic, these stones defy the evolutionists!”

Scientifically proven…to defy the evolutionists? That is quite a bold claim! It must have been very difficult to find a scientist to prove this claim considering that more than 95% of biologists are materialists and would therefore be more likely to believe that evolution, not I.D., explains the origins and continuous process of life on earth (Behe, 2005). In contrast, 45% of Americans believe that I.D. is the true answer to how life began on earth (Johnson, 2006). Because so many Americans accept the I.D. explanation and believe evolution to be “just a theory,” many school districts have decided to teach I.D. alongside evolution or eliminate evolution from the curriculum altogether.

While there is much debate in the U.S. about which theory should be taught in biology classes, the debate in the scientific community is virtually non-existent. In 1997, George Gilchrist, professor of zoology at Washington University conducted a study of over 5,000 scientific publications containing several hundred thousand reports to determine how frequently scientists invoked the theory of I.D. versus evolution. Gilchrist found not a single biological research study which used I.D. for its basis. In contrast, Gilchrist found nearly 7,000 uses of the keyword “evolution theory” and over 46,000 uses of the keyword “evolution” (Johnson, 2006).

Could it be that all these scientists are closed minded to the possibility that I.D. is the correct theory? Only if one expects for scientists to stray away from science and wonder into mystical disciplines not unlike astrology, alchemy, sorcery. The whole notion that I.D. is science requires a new definition of the word “science.” Science can only study the natural material universe. Everything that exists consists of matter; all of which has mass and takes up space. Science cannot study “supernatural” or “non-material” phenomenon.

I.D. proponents like Michael Behe (Author of Darwin’s Black Box) are critical of the notion that most scientists abide by this strict definition of “material” science (Seems redundant to me. Replace the word “material” with science and you get “science science”) He seems to believe that by finding the slightest flaw in evolution (and what scientific theory is flawless?) the whole theory must be tossed out and inserting in its place “a designer” without any scientific explanation.

I.D. proponents often say their motive is to find the truth about the origins of life but is that really their overriding motive? Behe admits to having other objectives in mind: “I think it is much more important for a Christian to be fully aware of his intellectual freedom than to be correct on any particular scientific matter” Behe explains (2005).

Intellectual freedom is more important than scientific accuracy? I.D. proponents have an agenda but this agenda has nothing whatever to do with improving science; in fact their goal is to destroy science. The true agenda of the I.D. movement is to redefine science as it has commonly been practiced by eliminating the notion of scientific materialism, replace materialism with a theistic approach, and use I.D. to change the “religious, cultural, moral, and political life” of America (Johnson, 2006). Since when have these been the goals of science?

Though these may be the goals of I.D. proponents, perhaps this “discovery” of the Ica Stones will prove them to be right all along and put the whole evolution vs. creationism debate to bed once and for all. What else could do more damage to the evolutionary theory than proof that modern humans lived and interacted with the dinosaurs much like the Flintstones!

These stones were first discovered near Ica, Peru in 1966. Dr. Javier Cabrera was given a small rock with what appeared to be ancient carvings for his birthday. Dr. Cabrera was so intrigued with this discovery that he asked the natives if they knew of any other such carvings. Much to Dr. Cabrera’s delight, the natives sold to him over 15,000 such stones that he would later use to open his own museum. The stones had carvings of ancient Aztecs hunting, domesticating, and working with practically every dinosaur one could imagine (Polidoro, 2002).

As Dennis Swift’s book description states, these stones are “scientifically proven to be authentic.” Based on my limited and amateur knowledge of archaeology, I was very skeptical of this claim and prompted me to do my own research beginning with the following question: “Could there be any other explanation of the origin of these mysterious stones?”

Truthfully, it did not take me long to find the answer; for those of you who want to believe these stones’ carvings to be of an ancient origin prepare to be very disappointed. The stones could not be carbon dated because there was no organic material to test. The only way to find the age of the stones would be to identify the strata in which they were found. Unfortunately, the locals could not agree on whether the stones were found in a nearby cave or a riverbed (Polidoro, 2002).

Finally, by 1975 the inquiring minds had their answers. Two of the individuals who sold the stones to Dr. Cabrera, Basilio Uchuya and his wife Irma Gutierrez, admitted that they carved the stones themselves! Later testing revealed that traces of sandpaper were found in the etchings (Polidoro, 2002).

In addition to these revelations I found in The Skeptical Inquirer article, I found this article by Dr. Stephen C. Meyers (2005, 2006), contributor to The Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies website. This website appears to be one by Christians who want to reconcile science and history with the Bible. The site presents arguments from Old earth creationists who like most scientists believe the earth is ancient, Young earth creationists who believe the earth is relatively young (less that 20,000 years old), and Theistic evolutionists who argue that God used the natural process of evolution to bring forth life. With Christianity as its guiding principle, I found Dr. Meyers’ article debunking the stones even more compelling than The Skeptical Inquirer’s. At least there are honest people out there who will debunk a claim even if the claim would benefit their argument.

Dr. Meyers found even more problems with the authenticity of the Ica Stones. Dr. Meyers noticed that the etchings did not accurately depict any known dinosaurs, found pencil and hacksaw blade tool marks, and dung to make the etchings appear older than they were. Meyers found that some of the stones appeared to be authentic--the ones which did not depict prehistoric creatures.

In the course of Dr. Meyers’ research, he contacted Dennis Swift just prior to his release of Swift’s book in 2005 (the Mt. Blanco book in question). Meyers soon discovered that Swift was not an expert in the field of anthropology, archeology, or geology but earned his doctorate in Systematic Theology (which could explain why I could not find any peer reviewed articles by Swift).

Surly Swift, a self-proclaimed expert on the Ica Stones, would have known that this discovery had already been debunked some thirty years earlier, so why would he go on to publish his “scientifically authentic” book that would “defy evolutionists”? In his interview with Dr. Meyers, Swift admitted that some of the stone carvings were fake (a little nugget of information he apparently saw no need to add to promote his book).

I think it’s safe to close the book on the mystery of the Ica Stones as well as the credibility of the Mt. Blanco authors. So far neither are the experts they claim to be. None of this surprises me. If the Ica Stones were authentic, I think we would have read about them at great length over the past thirty or so years. Such a discovery would force scientists to re-evaluate their methods for decoding the past. Some people fail to realize that fact (not faith) is required to find the truth.


Behe, M. (2005). Scientific orthodoxies. First Things. December, 158. p. 15-20. Retrieved April 26, 2007 from the Pro-Quest database.

Johnson, V. (2006). A contemporary controversy in American education: Including Intelligent Design in the science curriculum. The Educational Forum. 70, 3. p. 222 Retrieved April 25, 2007 from the Pro-Quest database.

Polidoro, M. (2002). Ica Stones: Yabba-Dabba-Do! The Skeptical Inquirer. September/October, 26, 5 p. 24. Retrieved April 24, 2006 from the Pro-Quest database.

(See links throughout body of the post for additional resources not shown here)
Free Hit Counters
devry university